St. Louis of Toulouse Crowning Robert of AnjouSt. Louis of Toulouse Crowning Robert of Anjou, painted by Simone Martini, c. 1317, now in the Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte

Robert the Wise was King of Naples from 1309 to 1343. His older brother, Louis, had renounced the throne when he entered the Franciscan Order in 1295. He became Bishop of Toulouse and was later canonized as St Louis of Toulouse. Quoting yet again from Naples, the City of Parthenope and its Environs (1894), by Clara Erskine Clement:

In 1309 Robert, Duke of Calabria, the third son of Charles II., known as Robert the Wise, became King of Naples. He was ambitious of wearing the imperial crown of Italy; but in 1327 King Louis of Bavaria succeeded in obtaining this honor, and vowed vengeance upon Robert. The Romans at first received Louis gladly, but when, in 1329, they saw the fleet of Naples at the mouth of the Tiber, another sentiment prevailed among them, and the Emperor was forced to retreat to the North of Italy. Long years of serious disturbances succeeded these events. Robert the Wise was now too old to lead the Guelfs to victory, as he had formerly done, and the Ghibelline power was vastly increased. When John of Bohemia became their leader, Florence appealed to Robert for aid; but he merely sent them Walter of Brienne, Duke of Athens, who did them harm rather than good; and in 1343 King Robert ended his reign in the midst of bitter contentions between Guelf and Ghibelline, and the spirit of freedom and that of tyranny which these terms represented.

While still Duke of Calabria, in 1308, Robert had founded the town of Città Ducale, then on the frontier of the Neapolitan territory. After he came to the throne he enlarged and completed the port of Salerno, which had been commenced by Manfred, and proved his wisdom by founding the Castel Sant’ Elmo, which was later so improved and strengthened as to be considered impregnable. It is now a military prison; from its ramparts one sees a splendid panorama of the Bay of Naples, the city itself, and the district on the west of the bay.

Castel Sant'ElmoCastel Sant’Elmo as seen from Castel dell’Ovo. Source: Wikimedia / Creative Commons

Dating to 1275, the Castel Sant’Elmo today serves as a museum, exhibition hall, and offices. Clara Erskine Clement writes of Robert’s relations with famous artists and writers of his time:

A delightful association with the memory of Robert the Wise is his appreciation of Giotto, whom he summoned from Florence on the advice of Boccaccio. Giotto decorated the chapel in the Castel dell’ Ovo and the church of S. Chiara, which was founded by King Robert. No traces of these frescos remain in the castle, and those in the church were whitewashed (!) when it was vulgarly decorated in 1752. A picture called the Madonna della Grazie is attributed to Giotto, but it is difficult to believe it to have been his work. Vasari tells us how happy Robert found himself in the society of this painter, the friend of Dante and the witty comrade of the brilliant Florentines of his day. King Robert was also the friend of Petrarch, in whose company he took great pleasure. Together they visited the tomb of Virgil. Before Petrarch was crowned with laurels at Rome, he was examined by King Robert, who not only gave the poet a satisfactory diploma, but also conferred on him his own royal mantle to wear at the ceremony, as he was too aged to assist at it in person. King Robert was called a second Solomon, and was wise and experienced in affairs of peace and of war. His love of books was a passion, and in all circumstances and places he had them at his side and in his hand. He generously welcomed to his court scholars and artists, who helped to revive the intellectual traditions of an earlier century, when the poetry of Southern Italy had even influenced that of Tuscany. The Greeks, too, were encouraged to visit the court of Robert the Wise; and their language and the ancient literature, after half a century of neglect, were again studied by the Neapolitans. In short, he seems to have merited his sobriquet, and to have been a far more attractive man than were his predecessors in the dynasty of Anjou.

Tomb of Robert of AnjouTomb of the Robert Anjou, king of Naples in San Chiara (source)

Santa Chiara was founded by Robert in 1310. The interior interior was given a Baroque makeover in 1742-1757. Destroyed in World War Two, the church was rebuilt in 1953 in its original style. Clara Erskine Clement described King Robert’s tomb in San Chiara:

Robert displayed an admirable modesty in refusing to have the monument which is said to have been designed by Masuccio II. executed during his lifetime. It was erected by his granddaughter, Joanna I., and is behind the high-altar in S. Chiara. In the upper part of this monument Robert appears as a monarch on his throne, beneath which is the inscription, said to have been written by Petrarch, “Cernite Robertum regem virtute refertum,” which may be rendered, ” King Robert [here] ye gaze upon, Valor’s perfect paragon.” Below this royal statue, on a splendid sarcophagus, supported by saints, the king is again seen in the dress of a Franciscan monk; while above all is the Madonna between SS. Francis and Clara.